Notre Dame tries to kill the last Historians

After removing all the historians of economics (and pluralist economists) from the economics department in 2003, Notre Dame University are now planning to shut down the department which they were all placed in. This at a time when the mainstream is ‘officially’ re-thinking its stance to pluralism seems like further indication that there is no such re-think going on. This has sparked comment from a previous faculty member, Teresa Ghilarducci and others like Fred Lee, the open economics blog and The Observer.

The original argument (if we ignore the in-fighting, politics, and bad feelings towards the pluralists-slash-historians) was that the Mainstream people were publishing in ‘better’ journals. Despite the fact that the pluralists and historians were more productive (in terms of research), their work did not go into certain star ranked journals. So the classification and ranking systems comes back to haunt us. We have already discussed the attempts to re-classify HET in Australia, and there has been some changes to classifications in Europe and Australia despite this (I seem to recall). But this is where the battle lines have been drawn. Not by us, but by economics departments who wish to appear to be doing ‘serious’ work, and appear to be doing so to outsiders. The public debate on the value of mainstream economics will (eventually) die down again. Just as it did after the 1998 Financial Crash (which supposedly discredited the Scholes-Merton work), and after the 2001 bubble. When it does, we will be left with mainstream economists who are patting each other’s back for getting us ‘out of the crisis’, a public which evaluates the discipline on ranking metrics and a repeat of history once more. Or maybe there is something which can be done?


3 thoughts on “Notre Dame tries to kill the last Historians

  1. The contrast with management is striking.

    I am currently employed in a business school, in the department of marketing management. Here, psychologists (working in the behavioral lab, mainly) go along well with economists (writing formal models, mainly), who go along well with strategists (who write narratives, mainly). All of them contributing to marketing knowledge, in their very different manners. And these people do not shoot at each other, I mean, they work in a pluralistic environment, attend the same department seminars, etc… and this is considered to be normal.

    Why can’t economists achieve pluralism… even within the limited scope of their own discipline? There are signs that things are changing – take behavioral economics, experimental economics or neuroeconomics, where psychologists and others do get a voice. Maybe that’s the way to go.

  2. This is a sad tendency in all disciplines and not only in economics. The problem is that the theoretical approach adopted by the mainstream – here considering also social sciences in general – is based on spurious assumptions. Even with all development and refinement of the last years, the theoretical base still Bentham, Jevons, Marshall, Menger and Walras. The problem is that History – thus naturally also Economic History – may be used to uncover these approaches’ inconsistencies very easily. History is undesirable, as it shows how things are and not how they should be.

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